January 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw (right) watches game action against the Michigan State Spartans during the first half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach and David Shaw: Fire Them Both!

Hopefully you instantly found the sarcasm in this title, because who really feels this way, right!?

Actually, if you go to some message boards around the Washington State and Stanford football communities, there are several people that are advocating for these moves. Heck you may be one of them. The thing is, it’s completely inexplicable that either of these would come to fruition at this point and if you are one of these fans, what’s wrong with you? I just wanted to comment on the absolute craziness that has become “fandom” in college sports, especially football and especially in the Pac-12, apparently. Because YOU CRAZY!


Let’s look at this logically for a minute. Of course we know that Washington State is directly in the middle of a rebuilding project on the Palouse and it’s happened in very short order under The Pirate. Leach was brought into the program with the expectation of a tougher, more respectable football team while also becoming a long term, competitive and ultimately quality football program. After a difficult opening campaign in Pullman, Leach turned it around in year two with his blitzing Air Raid attack, coming tantalizingly close to 9-4 if you change the outcome on anywhere from one to three plays in games against Auburn, Washington and Colorado State.


Meanwhile, it was thought that Stanford would lose some steam after Jim Harbaugh bolted for the NFL, but all they’ve done is reach historical highs under Shaw’s affinity for a powerful team. Stanford is who Stanford is and they have made four… FOUR straight BCS appearances by doing it. They have gone 2-2 in those games with losses by a combined 7 points and two blowout victories. Granted Shaw is 1-2 in those games as a head coach but that doesn’t change the overall perception of the Cardinal right now. They aren’t supposed to be able to do this. Not even Notre Dame has been this successful in any time you can remember and they have a much better nationwide profile… or at least they DID.

Leach is the prototypical high-level college coach. Shaw is the prototypical high-level NFL coach in college. Both are proving, once again that they are worthy of their paychecks, yet fans are impatient enough to want to fire them over less than two minutes of football in bowl games. Why?

Yes, both made head-scratching decisions in those crucial final moments, but really, were they THAT bad? In the grand scheme, the simple answer is “No”. We can fall back to decisions earlier in the season for easy explanations as to why these most recent decisions were made, realizing that sometimes in football it just doesn’t work out and there’s no reason for it. After all, one team HAS to lose in college football and Alabama will tell you without hesitation, even the best will fall.


Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney (25) is tackled by Michigan State Spartans linebacker Taiwan Jones (34) and defensive end Marcus Rush (44) and defensive lineman Micajah Reynolds (60) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

In the case of Shaw, some will remember two pass plays against Utah that turned incomplete and raised a litany of credibility questions with Shaw’s play-calling. So he learned, right? On 4th and 1 in the Rose Bowl he asked his offensive line to get the Cardinal a half yard. It’s exactly the opposite of what he did against Utah and it just didn’t work out, but not because it was the wrong call. Shaw said it himself,

“When I don’t do that, everybody goes crazy. ‘We should have done this, we should’ve done that’. So I don’t worry about any of that stuff. I’m going to put the ball in the hands of our guys and put it on the offensive line.”

Yep, that’s how the Card have gotten to where they are at. Gimmicks may be in the Card at some point again, but for now, they just don’t cut it at Stanford. Shaw is right, if he calls a bootleg and MSU drops out, covers and stops that like Utah did, there are some serious questions coming there too, with the implication that Shaw for some reason won’t lean on the best aspect of the football team to win. So hell with it… DIVE PLAY FOR A HALF YARD! Nothing wrong with that.

Get over it Stanford fans, you’re too privileged to even fill up your incredibly beautiful Stadium on the Farm in the game of the year against the other best team in your conference, or even all stand up for your team when the game is on the line in the final minute of the Rose Bowl. You should be happier than a bunny in a bed of carrots that your team is where they should never have been and you may never experience this level of success again. If Shaw leaves for the NFL this season, the program is doomed to head South in an up-and-coming North division and you’ll never get a chance to thank your coach for giving you the time of your life as a Cardinal fan.


Dec 21, 2013; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Teondray Caldwell (34) fumbles the ball in the fourth quarter against the Colorado State Rams during the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cougars 48-45. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the case of Leach and the Cougars, we could retreat to the USC match that saw them in a nearly identical situation against the Trojans. Wazzu ran the ball in that situation and came out of it just fine, better in fact. While some non-football heads will say that the Cougs should have passed in the bowl situation if they were going to run a play, the smart money is still on Leach’s decision to run the football with a back that had not fumbled all season. The jackpot may still be on the kneel-down, but it was not necessarily a guarantee that the clock runs out in that situation and I’m sure the Cougars had been watching the rerun of Alabama vs. Auburn’s final second return for the week-stretch leading up to their game.

At any rate, get over it Washington State fans, Leach and your Cougars are way ahead of anybody’s perceived pace for a return to prominence in a conference that doesn’t lend itself to small-school success too often. The football stadium is finally premiere, the team is rising and your coach (though a little unconventional) is proving among the best in college football at what he does… again. This program is on the winning path for the first time in over a decade of football and it’s by a pure miracle for another team that this was not at least a 7-6 season. With practically the entire offense returning in 2014, at least wait to bite the hand…

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: David Shaw Football Mike Leach Washington State Cougars

  • steelkickn

    I don’t disagree that Shaw is a good coach in other regards, but he is a HORRIBLE play caller, game decision, and clock-management coach. He desperately needs to empower an actual offensive coordinator with full authority to call plays. Let’s be clear on certain facts:

    You alluded to the Utah game. Shaw was roundly, and correctly, criticized for not running the ball on 3rd and 2 and 4th and 2 from the 6 yd line, late in the game. Shaw was a COMPLETE IDIOT to throw on both downs. Here’s why – Stanford was AVERAGING 5.5 yards a carry in that game to that point. 5.5 YARDS PER CARRY!! Utah had a snowball’s chance in hell to stop them twice. On the other hand, Hogan had a horrible game throwing to that point. He was off target, as he is prone to be certain games, and it was by far the less desirable choice to throw there. Not only that, Hogan threw to a converted DL who had never caught a pass before in college. All around, stupidity at its highest.

    You other point is harder to believe. You honestly believe that RUNNING 4 CONSECUTIVE TIMES (swing pass to Seale on 2nd down was ruled a rush as the pass was backwards) when you need to go 80 yards and score a TD with less than 3 minutes left and one timeout is smart? You think that NOT calling plays to get out of bounds (stop the clock), NOT running a no-huddle two minute drill, and NOT airing out the ball when you need to score a TD is sound game-management, clock management, and play calling? If you do, please don’t entertain coaching anytime soon.

    Running the ball against MSU was NOT WORKING AT ALL for the prior 3 quarters of play. Gaffney was getting next to nothing on runs since the 1st quarter. The MSU DL had won. That ship had sailed a long time back and everyone knew it. MSU is the #2 rushing D in the country. Utah? Not in the top 50. Also, Hogan was actually throwing quite well against MSU. On both 3rd and 4th downs, the OLB for MSU crashed the interior of the line of scrimmage before the ball was handed off, and a bootleg would have gained 15-20 yards, minimum. Hogan runs that play to perfection. He’s an elite runner outside the pocket, and would have converted.

    Do I think Shaw should be fired? Not necessarily. If he admits his errors and limitations as a coach, and then hires and empowers an actual OC to run the offense, then by all means, Shaw should stay. If he doesn’t, and continues to throw away opportunities to win National Championships (and make no mistake, that’s exactly what he did this year and last year), then yes, fire him.

    • http://Allcougdup.com/ AllCoug’dUp (Joshua Davis)

      Interesting thoughts. I was more alluding to the 3 straight BCS appearances his teams have entertained, which nobody seems to say anything about the play-calling that it took to get there. If you think it’s easy to call plays to get your team (a Stanford team with all it’s recruiting limitations no less) to that point, you’re dreaming. No matter what if you lose a close game you’re going to hear it. There’s no way in hell that means he should even be mentioned with the word “fired” around it. He shouldn’t have to explain his decision to try and get a half yard, regardless of his method. He’d have caught grief if Hogan panicked and threw it away there too, I guarantee it. 4th and 2? Ok, I get it. 4th and 6 inches? I’m Stanford? I better be able to ask the OL to get it. Period. I don’t care who’s on the other side. Gaffney had 24 carries for 91 yards on the day and a touchdown. The team had 162 yards rushing…The two leading receivers for Stanford had 1 and 2 catches on the day… Nothing on the ground all day? Give me a break.